Travel/Real Estate Directory
Your AARP ; The Law
By Emily Sachar
; The issue: When does the Fair Housing Act
become a factor in a town’s redevelopment plans?
Joyce Starling, 77, says she’s not
leaving her home in Mount Holly, N.J. “I’m not moving,” said
Starling, a widow since 1985.
“Through God’s grace, I roll with
it.” The town has a different idea.
Since 2003, Starling and her
Mount Holly Gardens neighbors
have fought in public meetings
and in state and federal courts
for the right to stay, while the
town has fought just as hard to
get them to leave. After a series of
legal setbacks, a federal court ruling has given Starling some hope.
Starling’s neighborhood dates
back to the 1950s. For years, the
town has tried to redevelop the
area. But homeowners felt financially trapped because the
town’s relocation allowance was
inadequate for the area, and the
prices of the 500 planned homes
and apartments were beyond
the financial reach of most of the
Gardens residents, who are
poor, older and
In 2003, Citizens in Action,
to court. Since
then, the town
has demolished all but
70 of the original 329 homes. Today, according
to the September court ruling,
“residents living amongst the destruction were forced to cope with
noise, vibration, dust and debris,”
not to mention exposed walls,
leaking roofs, hanging wires and
exposed masonry joints.
The town’s objective is to up-
grade the neighborhood, and in
previous court rulings the goal
of developing the area trumped
residents’ claims that the project
discriminated against them.
of Mount Holly
the residents. “When communities use their legal powers to eliminate blight, they must protect the
residents who live there,” she said.
; What it means to you: If you
are affected by a public development project, you may get court
protection if you are a victim of
Emily Sachar is a journalist and
author based in Brooklyn, N. Y.